Senate Dems To VA Sec: You Have The Authority To Provide Abortions To Veterans. Do It.

The Division of Veterans Affairs has the authorized authority to offer abortions and abortion counseling to a whole lot of 1000’s of feminine veterans and spouses of veterans ― and it ought to “instantly” start doing so, greater than two dozen Democratic senators argued in a Thursday letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

The Supreme Courtroom’s choice to overturn Roe v. Wade “eliminated constitutional safety for abortion entry from tens of millions of people on this nation, together with an ever-growing variety of veterans and dependents who’re in a position to turn out to be pregnant,” reads the letter, signed by half of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “This choice makes it much more vital that veterans obtain entry to the reproductive care to which they’re entitled.”

“Thus, the Division of Veterans Affairs (VA) should urgently start rule-making to permit veterans and eligible dependents to obtain abortions and all abortion-related providers,” the senators wrote.

Present federal rules bar the VA from offering any abortion-related providers. Past that, CHAMPVA, the division’s insurance coverage program for sure dependents and survivors of veterans, solely gives abortion providers in instances the place the mom’s life is at risk. However McDonough has the authority to alter all of those rules via the rule-making course of ― and the senators say he ought to achieve this, now.

“The VA’s authority to offer care to veterans is established within the Veterans Well being Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996. That statute supplies that the VA Secretary ‘shall furnish hospital care and medical providers which the Secretary determines to be wanted’ to sure veterans,” the senators’ letter says. “Importantly, the VA has used its authority underneath the Veterans Well being Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 to offer reproductive care corresponding to being pregnant care and infertility providers, despite the fact that such care was initially excluded from the well being care packages allowed underneath the Veterans Well being Care Act of 1992.”

“We name on you to take swift and decisive motion to make sure all of our veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries can entry abortions and all abortion-related providers,” they conclude.

The letter is signed by Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (In poor health.), Dick Durbin (In poor health.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

Right here’s a duplicate of their letter:

Hirono, who co-led the letter with Warren, mentioned the “chaos” created by the Supreme Courtroom overturning Roe v. Wade signifies that it’s time to revisit longstanding rules for reproductive well being care. The VA coverage particularly, she mentioned, is ripe for change.

“So far as I’m involved, I would really like the secretary to behave now,” Hirono advised HuffPost.

McDonough himself mentioned he believes he has the authority to alter this coverage throughout an April listening to earlier than the Home Committee on Veterans Affairs, which befell earlier than the autumn of Roe v. Wade. He danced round saying whether or not he’d truly do it, although.

“Our statute would enable us to offer abortion providers. We don’t present abortion providers pursuant to rule-making,” McDonough mentioned. “In the meanwhile, I don’t have something to report on such a coverage change.”

When Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) adopted as much as make clear whether or not the legislation permits McDonough to alter VA coverage to permit for veterans to have entry to abortions and abortion counseling, he replied: “The legislation does allow it. Does.”

Frankel, puzzled, requested why he wasn’t already making an attempt to alter the coverage.

“It’s not been VA coverage now for a number of many years,” McDonough mentioned. “I’ve simply not modified what’s current VA coverage throughout Republican and Democratic administrations for many years.”

“Effectively, I might urge you to contemplate that,” Frankel replied.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough has the authority to alter the VA’s coverage barring abortions. Half of the Senate Democratic Caucus says he ought to achieve this instantly.

Drew Angerer by way of Getty Photos

On Thursday, HuffPost requested Hirono about McDonough not showing notably prepared to alter the VA’s abortion coverage throughout his testimony within the April listening to.

“Effectively, when you acknowledge you will have the authority to do it, count on folks like me, Elizabeth [Warren] and others to say ‘Go do it,’” she mentioned.

Warren, equally, advised HuffPost on Friday that simply because a rule has been on the books for a very long time doesn’t imply it’s an excellent one.

“For many years and throughout administrations, ladies’s reproductive well being has too typically been an afterthought on the VA,” she mentioned. “With this extremist Supreme Courtroom’s choice to overturn Roe, the VA should step up and train its authority to offer full well being care providers to all veterans, together with abortion.”

If McDonough in the end did change the VA’s abortion coverage, it could nonetheless depart the query of what occurs to feminine veterans who dwell in states which have banned abortions. Practically 400,000 feminine veterans of reproductive age dwell in states which can be sure or prone to ban abortions within the wake of Roe v. Wade’s demise.

However Hirono mentioned that shouldn’t matter, as a result of the well being care providers offered by the federal authorities usually are not one thing states can regulate.

“We are able to’t have the states telling the federal authorities what to do and what sort of providers to offer,” mentioned the Hawaii senator, who can also be an legal professional. “I acknowledge it does increase a authorized problem, but it surely’s one which we must always tackle.”

She didn’t appear notably involved about McDonough’s seeming indifference to the VA’s abortion coverage in the course of the April listening to.

“My expertise with Secretary McDonough is that he’s a doer,” Hirono mentioned. “And so, my hope is that this letter will spur him to behave.”

A VA spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark about whether or not McDonough is contemplating altering the VA’s abortion coverage.

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